File No. 813.00/865

Chargé Johnson to the Secretary of State

No. 162

Sir: Referring to your telegram dated August 22, 5 p.m., I have the honor to send enclosed herein copies and translation of the note of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica dated July 17, 1917, and first published here on August 22, 1917, and of the note in reply from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Honduras dated July 31, 1917, and first published here on August 23, 1917.

The Costa Rican note embodies the suggestion that the Washington Treaties be revised and extended, particularly that creating the Court of Justice, at a conference of plenipotentiaries to be held in this city September 15th next, and that if Nicaragua is unwilling to recede from its denunciation of the treaty that she be left out but the road left open to her to join at a later day whenever she admits the jurisdiction of the court in the recent suit of Costa Rica against her over the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty. The Honduras note accepts the invitation to the conference of plenipotentiaries but proposes that the primary subject of the conference be the embodying into a treaty of the union of all the Central American States, stating its willingness to enter into an extension of the treaties, but apparently only on the condition that Nicaragua also joins, in case the project for union fails.

A further report in compliance with your telegraphic instructions referred to above will be sent at an early date.

I have [etc.]

Stewart Johnson
[Inclosure 1—Translation]

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica to other Central American Republics except Nicaragua

Mr. Minister: I have the honor of informing your excellency that this Chancellery, in view of the note dated March 9 last which was sent to it by his excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, in which he gives notice of the denunciation, on the part of his Government, of the Convention of December 20, 1907, which created the Central American Court of Justice and which was signed in Washington by the Plenipotentiaries of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua, thinks it necessary to hasten to bring about an exchange of impressions in the matter, in order wisely to decide what will be most to the interest of these Republics under the circumstances.

The Government of Costa Rica, inspired by the most cordial sentiments of fraternity, would observe with the greatest pleasure that the Government of Nicaragua, considering its denunciation as having been made within the spirit of [Page 40]Clause XXVII of the Convention, saw fit to accept the extention of the life of the Court for a new decade in view of the advantages which the maintenance of that institution brings to our nations in the midst of whom it fills the high mission of solving pacifically and in a civilized manner by rules of law the controversies or differences of an international character which might arise between them.

In a word, in the judgment of this Government, the Central American Court of Justice, in which are traced the noble principles of arbitration, is an important conquest of progress in these countries and it would be sad indeed to see it disappear exactly at a time in which the spectacle of the World War imposes on the human conscience the absolute necessity of banishing the cruel recourse to force as the solution of the contentions between nations.

The right of denunciation exercised by the Government of Nicaragua before the other signatories of the convention to which I refer imposes the reorganization of the Court by the other States agreeing with the idea that it should be preserved; and to provide for the unexpected contingency that that Government persists in its present position of closing its ears to all effort directed to induce it to desist, it is the lively and sincere desire of Costa Rica, and in this sense I hasten to communicate it to your excellency, that in the new treaty the steps be pointed out that are necessary so that at any time our sister Republic can join as high contracting party when it shall see fit to do so, after having changed its attitude.

The Chancellery has made efforts in the sense of inducing the Government of Nicaragua to desist from the denunciation made, because our greatest desire is to assure the extention of the institution alluded to in all its integrity; and we do not doubt that the Government of your excellency regards the case in conformity with the views expressed and will therefore permit us to suggest the advantage of employing your good offices with the Government of Nicaragua in order to arrive as soon as possible at the objective indicated.

But if the Government of our sister Republic should not accede to the request that it desist which is made of it, the Government of Costa Rica believes that in order to preserve the international unity, that is the fruit of the Treaties of Washington, it would be well to proceed by common accord of their signatories to the total or partial revision of these pacts in a new Conference of Plenipotentiaries of Central America which might meet, let us say, the 15th of September, next.

In proposing respectfully to your excellency this project I hasten to tell you that my Government as a pledge of its aspiration for the cordial settlement of the difficulty created, highly honors itself in offering, without more ado, the hospitality of the Republic for the conference mentioned, with the feeling of certainty that once removed the difficulties in the way of a good common understanding that today exist, it will be possible for Central America, at the expiration of the term of the denounced treaty or upon the substitution of one or more of those signed at the same time, to renew a system of international life in accord with its aspirations and interests, within the fraternal spirit which our history and solidarity of interests demand.

I am confident, Mr. Minister, that the delicate negotiation which I permit myself to initiate in the present note will be pleasing to the Government of your excellency and I avail myself [etc.]

Carlos Lara
[Inclosure 2—Translation]

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Honduras to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica.

Mr. Minister: * * * (Omitted portion merely acknowledges receipt of note from Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, dated July 17, 1917, and repeats to a great extent its contents.)

In answer I have the honor to inform your excellency that my Government takes up with enthusiasm of the liveliest kind the initiative undertaken by the distinguished Government of our sister Republic and that with the greatest satisfaction it will be represented by its plenipotentiary at the conference projected for the total or partial revision of the Treaties subscribed in Washington or to extend by means of a new treaty the convention which established the [Page 41]Central American Court of Justice, if, as I do not doubt, the other Governments of Central America, impressed with the high and noble end sought by the Government of your excellency, accept the fraternal initiative.

The denunciation of the convention which created the Central American Court of Justice by the Government of Nicaragua is really not what will end it, because with that denunciation or without it, the convention would terminate at the completion of the term of years fixed for its existence, if before then it is not prorogued by means of a new pact between the high contracting parties.

In Article XXVII of the Convention the high contracting parties declared that, for no reason, nor in any case, shall this convention be regarded as annulled; and, consequently, they shall always regard it as in force during the period of ten years counted from the last ratification.

The fixing of this term without the right of prolongation within the terms of the convention itself, as is the practice in treaties of a permanent character, suggests the idea that the Central American plenipotentiaries had in view at the time of subscribing to the Washington Pacts in 1907, that these pacts were in the way of preparation for the fusion of the Central American nations into one single nationality, as was expressly declared in the preamble of the Convention on Future Central American Conferences. And without doubt they thought that to realize this great and longed for ideal of patriotism the period of ten years would be enough.

If this was the thought which inspired our plenipotentiaries in the Conferences of Washington to fix in Article XXVII of the Convention creating the Central American Court of Justice a fixed period for the treaty to endure, then today, when this period of time is about to expire, a meeting of plenipotentiaries of the five Central American States is required, for the purpose of considering whether, as my Government believes, the moment has arrived to agree by pact upon the union to which the several peoples aspire, or, if the contrary is the case, to prorogue the convention which created the court, since, while the General Treaty of Peace and Friendship is in force, the Republics of Central America are obligated to solve by means of that Court, every disagreement or difficulty which may arise between them; and since the spirit which governs the Conventions of Washington taken as a whole, in agreement with the general sentiment, counsels the maintenance of the high Tribunal of Justice in its established form, as long as the union of Central America is not realized.

My Government, most excellent Sir, faithful to the great ideal of the unity of Central America which it has ever loved, avails itself of this happy occasion in which the peoples and Government of the Isthmus confirm in an unequivocal manner their sentiments of confraternity, to propose the ideal as the theme of first importance for the Conference of Plenipotentiaries initiated by the Government of your excellency.

The difficulties of all kinds that surround at the present the weak Republics in which the fatherland of our elders is divided and the certain forecast of future dangers, which in their isolation threaten each of them in the international disequilibrium that will exist in the world whatever be the result of the present formidable war, are other considerable reasons for accomplishing, once for all, by means of union, our historic destiny.

The very Government of Nicaragua, which perhaps has reasons for not accepting the initiative of your excellency by reason of its having been the actor in the denunciation of the treaty which created the Central American Court of Justice and of having maintained its denunciation notwithstanding the efforts made by the Government of Guatemala to bring about its reconsideration, would perhaps find no objection to subscribe with the other Governments of the sister Republics the Treaty of Union, demanded to-day more than ever by Central American patriotism.

My Government, confident of the good will of your excellency’s, whose high views are reflected in the note to which I have the honor to refer, proposes to you this project and would like to have your illustrious opinion in order to present it to the other Governments of the sister Republics, who have on all occasions shown the most lively and sincere Central Americanist feeling.

The labors to realize the union of Central America would have sufficient time in which to be carried on in order to arrive at the most solid bases before the celebration, and with the idea of their being concluded before the time of the memorable date upon which is completed the centenary of our political independence, so that this date would find us already united in one single Republic—we, the five fractions of the Central American Isthmus.

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Glory, unmeasurable glory, Mr. Minister, will be attained by the present governors of Central America, if, as I do not doubt, they place at the service of this great ideal their patriotic efforts.

If the proposition which is made above, which, with special instructions of the honorable, the President of the Republic, I present to the illustrious consideration of your excellency’s Government, is not deemed practicable nevertheless this will not change the good will of my Government which will attend the conference which your excellency has proposed, for the ends expressed in your important note, and for every other high purpose directed to maintain the most perfect harmony and fraternity, among Central American States.

I avail myself [etc.]

Mariano Vasquez